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FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
Comment on "Public Notice Regarding Section 106 Review of State of Louisiana, Division of Administration, Facilities Planning and Control (FP&C) Proposal to Demolish the State Office Building and State Office Building Annex"
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Name: Toni DiMaggio
City: New Orleans, LA
Specific
property
affected:
301 Loyola Avenue; 325 Loyola Avenue
Comments: The State Office Building and State Office Building Annex are integral components to the mid-century Duncan Plaza Civic Complex tout ensemble. While they are not masterworks, they contribute to the integrity of the complex. The rationale for preservation of important architectural fabric like these structures was established in New Orleans for the preservation of the Vieux Carre in the Nineteen thirties.

The buildings themselves are, architecturally, a positive example of Modernist design as well as significant and vital components of the Duncan Plaza Civic Complex master plan. At the time of construction, the Civic Complex had the intent of being the architectural embodiment of New Orleans as a city looking towards a more open and efficient government; and the Annex, which was originally the Louisiana Supreme Court Building, was a symbol of New Orleans's importance within the state political system. The Complex was a master plan is one of the most important post WWII initiatives in New Orleans, garnering participation from all of the preeminent New Orleans architects and civic leaders of the time in its development.

These buildings have been determined by FEMA and the State Historic Preservation Office as being eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and therefore they must be considered, not only as individual buildings but also as part of the Duncan Plaza Civic Complex. It was also determined that their demolition "has the potential to affect historic buildings located in the area."

While it is obvious that the State Office Building and the Annex suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina, the major problems cited are basement flooding and damage to the mechanical and electrical systems that service both buildings. Building service systems of structures of this era are almost invariably obsolete and dysfunctional now. Yet this is no reason to demolish the structure. The applicant for the building's demolition says that retrofitting the building for other uses was found to be "difficult." The applicant also stated that they did not feel that it would be possible to "move back and look at alternatives to demolition." These reasons are insufficient to justify the demolition of substantial buildings constructed for civic purposes only fifty years ago.

New Orleans is a city with a limited roster of Modernist buildings, and these buildings are an important part of the historic fabric. While it is essential to rebuild and improve the city after Hurricane Katrina, more consideration should be given to rehabilitation when major historically significant built fabric is threatened with irreversible decisions such as demolition.


Forming chapter of DOCOMOMO/NOLA
(local working party for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement)

Toni DiMaggio, President
John P. Klingman, Board Member
Jim Albert, Vice President
Rainier Simoneaux, Secretary
Melissa Urcan, Treasurer
Francine Stock, Chairman of the Register Committee
Brad Brooks, Board Member
Eleanor Burke, Board Member
Steve Dumez, Board Member
Carol Reese, Board Member
Hilairie Schackai, Board Member
Wayne Troyer, Board Member